Building materials supplier James Hardie has posted a 13 per cent rise in full-year profit largely due to strong housing construction in its core market, the US.
The company also benefited from a decrease in asbestos claims in 2016/17.
James Hardie made a net profit of $US276.5 million ($A371.8 million) in the year to March 31, as sales rose 11 per cent to $US1.92 billion.
Sales of fibre cement – the group’s flagship product that’s used in walls, ceilings, floors and fences – were up 12 per cent in the US.
Housing market activity in Australia and New Zealand underpinned a 22 per cent rise in earnings from its fibre cement business outside of the US, including Asia and the Middle East.
“Asia Pacific had a good year – the only bump in the road was the Philippines,” chief executive Louis Gries said, in reference a drop in sales in the Philippines due to imports from competitors.
Its Australian operations were strong, with improvements in volume, price, costs and the efficiency of its new cement plant in Queensland, he said.
The performance of the Australian business is expected to be steady in the 2017/18 year, Mr Gries said.
Modest growth in the US housing market is also expected to continue into the current financial year.
A $US38.6 million decrease in the value of James Hardie’s estimated asbestos liabilities also boosted the company’s bottom line.
Claims for mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure, were down six per cent to 373 in 2016/17.
There were two large mesothelioma settlements worth more than $US1 million in the year.
“This is significantly lower than our expectations,” the company said.
Total claims for all asbestos-related compensation fell three per cent from the prior year to 557, and the average settlement dropped 10 per cent in value.
Large claim settlements amounted to $US3.3 million ($A4.4 million).
This is down from $US9.9 million ($A13.3 million) in the prior year and significantly lower than the company’s forecast of $US18 million ($A24 million) in claims.
CitiGroup analysts said there was a risk James Hardie’s earnings in the near-term could be dented by a moderation in the recovery of the US housing market, and with “Australian housing rolling over.”
James Hardie shares dropped $1.68, or 7.8 per cent, to $19.90.
HOUSING ACTIVITY A BOOST FOR JAMES HARDIE:
* Net profit up 13pct to $US276.5m
* Sales up 11pct to $US1.92b
* Final dividend down 1 US cent to 28 US cents